Saint Frances of Rome, 9th March 2022
One of the great things about a foreign war is that we can define ourselves over and against another – ‘them and us’. But we are always far more mixed than that, as Putin is perhaps finding out, with Ukrainian Russians not so keen to become Russian Ukrainians as he might like. But the temptation to a dualistic world view is always with us: the setting of boundaries which others must not cross but which can, of course, imprison us. Brexit springs to mind and this example of a Strict Presbyterian, Mr Proudfoot in a novel by John Buchan quoted by the Reverend Colin Heber – Percy in Tales of a Country Parish.
At one point, in an excess of righteous fervour Mr Proudfoot…utters this wonderful line:
“Let us see that there is no Canaanitish thing in our midst”, Mr Proudfoot cried, “for the purge of the Lord is nigh. And let Israel dwell in unity for a house divided shall not stand.”…..
And a ‘Canaanitish thing’ could be a golden calf, a king or a candle (p.157-158).
—or the poor – excluded because they are different, not one of us. And this can be meant in so many ways: race, gender, disability, religion, lack of education and so on- as well as simply lacking in material wealth. And the great thing about St Frances of Rome seems to be that she, though rich herself, crossed all these boundaries, and the line from the book of Judith seems so apt in this respect and she lived among all her possessions – being rich yet poor in spirit, biddable to the Lord’s commands, to his presence in others or, as the Rev. Colin Heber-Percy concludes:
The purity of the Presbyterians derives ultimately from the popish impurity (as they see it) of their foes. Likewise, Jihadists…exist on account of their opposition to the kafir. The Orange Walks in Ulster persist because of the Catholic Streets through which they pass … and so on.Tales of a Country Parish
And St. Frances exists because there is no opposition for her between such various parties. For her, they are all one in the Lord.